Cali – Part III

beach-wedding

Here at home, Seth and I have a routine of waking up early on Sunday mornings to volunteer with the children’s ministry at our local church. But during our California trip in mid-October, Seth and I found ourselves without a church home for Sunday morning.

Seth’s friends had planned their wedding for 4PM on Sunday afternoon, so Seth and I agreed we would spend Sunday morning reading the bible together in a coffee shop in lieu of going to some random church out in Cali. We had just nailed down a time of 8AM for driving to the coffee shop when Seth got a text from the groom.

The groom evidently wanted to go to breakfast with a bunch of people at 9AM the morning of his wedding day. No problem. Seth and I bumped our coffee date to 7AM. Then Seth’s friend Steve invited us to go biking along the beach at 11AM. We agreed to join him as well. So, as of Saturday night, our plans for Sunday were:

  • 7AM – Read the bible at a coffee shop
  • 9AM – Breakfast with the groom and friends
  • 11AM – Bike ride along the beach with Steve
  • 1PM – Head back to the hotel to shower and get ready for the wedding
  • 4PM – Wedding ceremony

And Sunday morning started perfectly. When the day dawned, Seth and I were already enjoying a quiet morning together reading one of the gospels. We asked questions of one another and dug into some bible commentaries to gain a deeper understanding of our selected reading passage. And Seth, who is not a coffee drinker, loved his coffee shop blueberry smoothie because – unlike the smoothie from Cali Day 1 – this one was chock full of sugar additives. We were both content and satisfied. For me, it was one of the best parts of the whole trip.

But then the rest of the world woke up for the day. Around 8:45AM when we prepared to leave the coffee shop, Seth got a text from the bridal party saying breakfast was pushed back to 10AM because the brothers of the bride were running late. So at 10AM, Seth and I rolled into IHOP only to discover that no one in the wedding party of fourteen people had bothered to make reservations for a Sunday morning breakfast at IHOP.

IHOP had an hour-long wait, so we all drove 15 minutes to another restaurant with only a 20 minute wait and finally got our “breakfast” around 11AM. I ended up being the only woman in the group (all the wives had been invited to a spa day), so I got stuck on the end next to the two brothers of the bride.

After two hours of entertaining the aspiring screenwriters, I escaped the man brunch, and Seth suggested a quick walk along the beach rather than trying to squeeze in a bike ride with Steve before the wedding. Then an hour before the ceremony, I found out the wedding was going to be on the beach itself and that footwear was discouraged. So I slipped out of my black heels and went barefoot in my cocktail dress. Oh yeah. I’m rocking this whole spontaneity thing. 

The wedding ceremony was fine – I knew no one; had never met the bride or groom prior to this day – and the reception started out pretty standard: drinks and appetizers while we waited for the bridal party to finish photos. Seth and I stood around making small talk for about an hour before the bridal party showed up and we were all seated for dinner.

Over dinner was more small talk (with strangers for me; college friends for Seth). Then the cake cutting and more small talk. Then the first dance; everyone dancing; more small talk.

Around 10PM I started to fade. My body was saying it was 12 midnight from my home time zone, I’d hiked for 6 hours the day prior, and I’d woken up at 6AM that morning to do a morning devotional with my beau. Besides that, my introverted self was emotionally exhausted from the six straight hours of making small talk with strangers. People I didn’t know. People I’d never see again. People with whom I did not share any common interests or even the same life stage.

I was so miserable by 10:30PM that I excused myself to go to the bathroom and just sat down in a stall in the women’s bathroom even though I didn’t need to go. I just needed some alone time – some time away from the loud music and crowded reception hall and clusters of strangers asking me the same surface-level questions over and over again.

When I re-emerged at 10:45PM, one of Seth’s more distasteful acquaintances (who’d shown me a photo of an erection an hour earlier) came up to me and said loudly, “Why are you so quiet?!” My automatic response was to crinkle my nose in distaste and ask sourly, “Why are you so loud?”

Seth immediately pulled me aside and asked what was wrong. “I’m fine,” I told him. And I would be fine. I could buck up and stick it out. We’d flown all the way to California for this wedding, and I didn’t want to be the reason we left the reception early.

“We can go if you want,” Seth told me, trying to be considerate. But I knew he didn’t want to leave, so I told him we could stay as long as he wanted.

“Are you tired?” he asked me, trying to understand. He’s a man and, sweet man that he is, he sensed a problem and just couldn’t stop himself from trying to fix it.

“I’m not physically tired,” I explained, “But I’m emotionally exhausted. It’s been seven straight hours of making small talk with strangers, and that is draining for me.”

Just then, someone came up to talk to Seth, so I snuck away to a corner to read articles on my phone. I was past the point of caring if I seemed anti-social.

Fifteen minutes later, the wedding planner announced that the bride and groom weren’t planning to do a formal exit, so we were free to leave at any time. Seth and I were out the door in minutes – I think mostly because he was conscious of my mental and emotional state. We didn’t speak before bed other than to agree to set our alarms for 4AM in order to catch our 7AM LA flight an hour’s drive away.

At the airport in the morning, Seth and I hashed out the tension from the prior evening. After getting through security and sitting at our gate, Seth commented, “You seemed really irritable last night, and I don’t understand why you behaved that way. Honestly, I’m pretty concerned by your behavior. You seemed miserable. I mean, are we even compatible?”

“Are you breaking up with me?” I asked candidly.

“No,” he said slowly; cautiously. “I just – well,  I want to be with someone who enjoys parties like I do; who values people like I do.”

“Seth. I was pleasant and sociable for the first five hours. I do enjoy parties, and I do value people. But I think it’s understandable that seven hours of making small talk with strangers is emotionally draining.”

“No. No, it’s not understandable. I had a great time last night until you started getting so grumpy.”

“I wasn’t grumpy. I was reserved,” I told him. He didn’t seem to understand, so I tried to give an example he – in all his extroversion – could relate to. “Remember yesterday morning when we were at the coffee shop reading together?”

“Yeah…”

“I could have done that all day,” I told him. “I LOVE that kind of thing. But how would you have felt around hour 7 of sitting at a quiet coffee shop?”

Seth’s eyes grew wide in horror. “I would have wanted to die.”

I nodded emphatically. “Yes! And that’s how the wedding reception felt for me after seven hours of small talk.”

Seth looked thoughtful. “So… Do we exhaust each other?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, the things I enjoy seem to drain you. And vice versa. Are we just not good for each other?” He looked sad.

I chose my words carefully. “I think introverts and extroverts make great couples. They are able to complement one another in ways that like pairs cannot. I like that you get me out of my shell, and hopefully you appreciate that I help you settle down and be still from time to time.”

“I don’t want us to break up,” he said quietly.

“I don’t want us to break up, either,” I echoed softly.

“I want to try to make it work,” he told me.

“I do, too,” I responded. “And I think we can,” I added encouragingly. “I mean, think about how much friction we used to have about planning versus flexibility. And I think we’ve done great with that this trip! We just had to find a way to compromise; a way of working that fit our relationship. And I think we can do that for our introversion/extroversion conflict, too.” I paused. “I’m willing to try if you are.”

“Yeah,” Seth finally smiled. “I want to make it work.”

He took my hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. Our flight had started boarding. It was time to go home.

Seth pulled me up, and we walked to our gate hand-in-hand. We had some work ahead of us – some compromise and conflict resolution – but we both recognized that the best things in life are worth fighting for.

Authentically Aurora

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Angeles National Forest

Photos from my recent trip to California with Seth

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Authentically Aurora

Paris – Day 4

Hardware SocieteOpting to start our Montmarte morning in that section of Paris (the 18th arrondissement), Rachel and I enjoyed a continental breakfast at Hardware Societe just down the street from Sacre-Coeur. When I ordered my breakfast of a cafe au lait with roasted peaches and oats in yogurt, the adorable waiter – whose leather apron was fitting in light of the cafe’s name – told me with a smile, “Your French is perfect!” When we left, he asked hopefully, “See you tomorrow?” We seriously made friends left and right. What is that my boss keeps saying about my inability to win friends and influence people? 

IMG_6212.jpgWalking back toward the hilly Sacre-Coeur, we saw children feeding pigeons and were greeted by the peaceful sounds of a harpist. Down the street, we found Place du Tertre where local street artists sketched portraits of tourists. I enjoyed watching their skill unfold as they captured the unique markings of each of their subjects.

Continuing on to Rue des Abbesses, we stopped in to a number of Montmarte boutiques where I found a cute bracelet for Ashley and a fashionable coffee mug for myself. Lunch was at Creperie Broceliande, where I ordered the Mont Blanc – a chocolate banana crepe that was the best crepe I’ve ever had in my entire life, which is saying something, considering I’ve had crepes in Greece and also make my own in a crepe pan at home. If you ever go to Paris, definitely check this place out!

We also tried the Cuillier coffee chain, found it average, and headed over to the 3rd arrondissement to check out Merci, a nonprofit shop that is part cafe, part boutique and part home goods store. It was neat to see, but everything was outrageously overpriced, and the store was also overcrowded. On the plus side, I ran into more people from my hometown, and the shopkeeper thought I was French when we conversed briefly. Victory.

IMG_6304On the Metro on our way to the Arc de Triomphe, I kept catching a tall brunette guy looking at me. When we got off a few stops later, I glanced his way and found him still watching, so I smiled politely at him as I exited the platform. Rachel and I strolled down Champs-Elysses, taking in the sights on foot and peeking in Laduree before coming to a stop at the end of the street at the Arc de Triomphe.

When we were crossing a crosswalk on our way back down Avenue des Champs-Elysses, I sensed rapid movement behind me and turned to see the tall brunette from the Metro hurrying across the street toward me before the light turned red. “Hey.” He said something to me in French, and when I looked dumbfounded, he asked in English, “Do you remember me from the Metro?”

“Of course,” I said, and he introduced himself as Thomas (Toh-mah), a native Parisian. He waved over to his friend Benjamin (Bah-jah-mah), who joined us shortly. Rachel and I had just finished all of our touring for the day, so when they invited us for coffee, we agreed. I realized Thomas was steering us toward a Starbucks, so I suggested we go to a local cafe instead.

IMG_6361.jpgThomas stopped cold. “You are a difficult woman.” I just laughed, and we went to Starbucks. Thomas had thought I was Eastern European, so when he found out that I’m an American (and have shot guns), he added to my descriptors: “You are a dangerous woman!”

Rachel and I learned that Benjamin is a 22-year-old sports journalist, and Thomas is a 23-year-old IT major with dreams of being a professional (corporation-employed) hacker. They asked how Rachel and I know each other, and when I said, “Church,” they looked surprised, so I asked them (fully knowing the answer) if they grew up going to church.

The native Parisians told me that they are both agnostic and that in France, church is for old people. “It’s more of a tradition,” Thomas explained. So I asked what they believe happens when they die. Rachel squirmed, pleading with her eyes for me to stop. But the postmodern, open-minded, sophomoric French were interested in engaging in philosophical conversation. Besides, if I have to choose between temporary discomfort for us versus potentially eternal death for them, I will choose temporary discomfort every single time.

IMG_5751Benjamin seemed to think that we just fade to nothing when we die, and Thomas said diplomatically that we cannot know for sure until we actually die and experience the other side. I countered with a twinkle in my eye, “I believe I know for sure, and you can, too.” Rachel’s discomfort was now palpable. Wishing she would support me rather than being a stumbling block, I plunged ahead, sharing the gospel of Jesus with them. The boys seemed interested but not convinced, and I encouraged them that something of potentially eternal significance is probably worth exploring. We exchanged contact information, but now all I can do is pray the Holy Spirit works faith in them. They’ve heard the truth. I’m responsible for obedience and providing the input, but God is the only one who can determine the outcome.

Rachel and I said goodbye to the French boys and took the Metro to the Bastille to check the box (not much to see there); then we went back to (you guessed it!) Rue Cler where I enjoyed a burger and Pinot Noir at Cafe du Marche. I don’t normally like red wines, but this one was not too bitter; it had a subtle sweetness and was not too dry. We reflected on the day, got more LeNotre macaroons and took an evening stroll through the Palais de Challoit in view of the Eiffel Tower before retiring for the night. La perfection.

Authentically Aurora

Paris – Day 2

IMG_5639.jpgRachel and I started our second day in Paris with a mid-morning brunch at Le Tourville near Ecole Militaire. I ordered a Croque Monsieur and cafe au lait; then watched people hurrying through the morning rain from the safety of my covered awning.

While Rachel made use of the cafe’s Wi-fi connection, I met a nice German couple from Stuttgart and also made friends with our waiter, Leandre. He taught me some new phrases (“C’est bon”) and invited us to join him that evening at Hobo Club discotek.

Due to the EuroCup, Champs de Mars was closed to the public, but we were able to at least walk by, and in the process, we also passed right by the base of the Eiffel Tower. Circling back to Ecole Militaire, we found Rue Cler and enjoyed its Open Air Market despite the drizzling rain. Rachel bought raspberries, I got blueberries, and we strolled in the rain eating our bite-sized fruit.

IMG_5672.jpgAround the corner, we stumbled upon LeNotre. The little bakery specialized in macaroons, and although I have never liked macaroons in the US, I decided to try some, and they were the best macaroons I’ve ever had! Throughout the rest of the trip, Rachel and I ate a lot of macaroons, but no one – not even the famous Laduree – came close to LeNotre’s macaroons: soft and flavorful with just the right amount of chewiness.

While eating my strawberry hibiscus and dark chocolate macaroons, I accompanied Rachel to a bookstore where she bought a children’s book in French for her nephew. She has decided to buy him a book in every country she visits. He won’t be able to read them, but she thinks someday he will appreciate having a collection of children’s books in other languages. Time will tell.

In the afternoon, we made our way to Rue du Commerce, a street of boutiques where the locals shop. I got a really cute coral pencil skirt with scalloped edging. Afterward in the Metro, we got stuck behind a Polish football fan whose RATP card wouldn’t work, so Rachel gave him one of hers.

IMG_5743.jpg“Where you from?” he asked us, wondering at the kindness of strangers. When we told him America, he invited us for beers and to join them in watching the soccer match. I told him we were on our way to a cafe instead. “Cafe?! No, no no,” he said to me. “Cafe bad. Beer good!” the boisterous Polski declared with a grin before running off with his friends singing a song in Polish at the top of his lungs.

Back at Rue Cler (quickly becoming one of our favorite hideaways), Rachel and I each ordered cafe au lait and split a scrumptious raspberry tart at Le Petit Cler. Although the maitre d’ was outrageously rude, the food was delicious, and we made a lot of new friends:

  • 3 British soccer fans took a liking to us and poured us some champagne when I joked that, “obviously,” I was pulling for Britain in the EuroCup.
  • 2 Welsh guys in their 40s, one of whom (Garreth) took a liking to me and had a great, long conversation about politics (e.g. effect of the legal drinking age of 21 in the US and decline of the pub scene in Britain) as well as religion. Garreth just started reading his childhood bible about two months ago and invited us to the Half Penny Pub when he left. We got invited for drinks by nearly everyone we met!
  • 2 young, fashionable women were seated next to us at Le Petit Cler, and when I heard one of them speak, I picked up her American accent. Daria, as she soon introduced herself, turned out to be from my hometown, and she’d met Agathe – her French companion – when they both attended Fashion School in London.

IMG_5755.jpgRachel and I hit it off so well with Daria and Agathe that we all walked down the block to Cafe Central where Agathe insisted we all try the famous Berthillon gelato. I ordered the nut flavor, and it was delicious (similar to Nutella)! After we all exchanged contact information (yay for new friends!), we said good night (“bonne nuit”).

Our Metro line 6 skipped over our Passy stop, so Rachel and I got off at Trocadero and walked through the picturesque Palais de Chaillot – lit up at night – to get home to our shared full-sized bed and porta-shower at the top of our seven flights of stairs. I found that our temporary “home sweet home” made my actual home all the sweeter. C’est bon.

Authentically Aurora